Cape Town - Four of the world's best
golfers went "back to school" on Tuesday as the new 2019 Rules came into play for
the first European Tour event of the year in Abu Dhabi.
READ: The new golf rules coming into effect in 2019
Seven years in the making, the
new rules - 24 in total - are designed to make the sport faster, fairer and
Defending double champion Tommy Fleetwood, triple Major winner Brooks
Koepka, 19-time PGA TOUR winner Dustin Johnson and super Swede Henrik Stenson,
playing in Abu Dhabi for the fourteenth consecutive year, wasted no time in
swotting up on the exciting new changes.
Key rule changes include
players allowed to putt with the flagstick in, lost ball search time reduced
from five minutes to three minutes, drops to be taken from knee height rather
than shoulder height plus a recommendation that no stroke should take longer
than 40 seconds.
As the first European Tour
event of the season, all eyes will be on the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as the new rules come into play for the first time.
established as the jewel in the crown of Middle Eastern golf, the tournament,
taking place from January 16-19, recently became part of the prestigious Rolex
Series and, with a prize fund now at $7million, is one of the premium
tournaments on The European Tour.
Defending double champion Fleetwood, who won the tournament in 2017 and 2018, said: "It's a really
memorable tournament for me. It's always a really special time of year as
everything is up for grabs and, as ever, the strength of field here in Abu
Dhabi is something else. With the new rule changes, it will be a fascinating
start to 2019.
Koepka added: "The new rule changes for 2019 should also
encourage more people to get involved in this wonderful sport of ours."
Johnson, one of only
three players ever to win a Tour title in each of his first eleven seasons,
agrees, saying: "The 2019 Rules can really help to simplify the game an make it
more enjoyable for players at every level. It should be an easy adjustment and
as always, I'm looking forward to another great week here in Abu Dhabi."
Stenson added: "Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite tournaments of the year. It's
cool to have played in every edition of this tournament and experienced
first-hand its growth into one of the biggest events on the European Tour with
the strongest field in the Middle East."
First staged in 2006, the
event is being hosted at the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 14th